Labor targets McConnell in Kentucky over lapse in benefits for unemployed

Labor leaders will go after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky on Wednesday over the GOP leader's opposition to legislation extending unemployment benefits.

The Kentucky AFL-CIO is organizing a demonstration for noon on Wednesday at the senator's state office to protest McConnell's leadership of Republicans against a bill extending the jobless benefits.

"We are calling for Sen. McConnell to reverse his votes against assistance to jobless workers and funds for job creation and take immediate action to get our economy back on track," said Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan. "The message at events like this across the country is loud and clear: Working people won’t stand for elected officials who play politics with people’s livelihoods."

McConnell and the Senate's 40 other Republican members have held up legislation to extend the benefits, demanding that the benefits be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. A number of GOP lawmakers have sought to draw funds for the benefits from Democrats' $787 billion stimulus bill from early 2009.

The result of the impasse has been a lapse in benefits since June 1, when the last extension of the benefits passed through Congress. Democrats have been hammering away at Republicans over their refusal to authorize the extension, which Democrats argue does not need to abide by pay-as-you-go (pay-go) rules because the spending is an "emergency."

Jobless workers, civil rights leaders and members of the AFL-CIO will make their way to McConnell's office to make the case for those benefits this afternoon, as part of the "wave of recess activities" the union had promised this week.

The earliest lawmakers could authorize continuing the benefits is next week, when they return from a weeklong recess following Sunday's Fourth of July holiday. After that, Congress will have only a few weeks to craft an extension before breaking for its monthlong August recess.